Valentine’s Day 1996 found my own life in an interesting state of flux. I was a month removed from a draining breakup with The Wrong Girl. I had gone through a sad January, wondering if I made the right call on TWG. At the same time, I kind of had my eye on a few girls I knew, but I was being wary and cautious.
A week before Valentine’s Day, something bit me and I called up a girl I knew, out of the blue, and asked her if she wanted to go to the snow that evening. It was in Mesa, Arizona; she was intrigued. We went behind the ice skating rink, where the Zamboni dumps the shaved ice from the rink — it’s the closest thing to snow in Mesa, really — and we had a fabulous snowball fight. She loved the idea, which was a complete surprise to her. The chemistry was definitely there, and we were thisclose to kissing, but I backed off at the last minute because I was still feeling gun-shy about relationships. She was the kind of girl that I knew it upfront — if I kissed her, I was going to fall for her, hard.
And I really didn’t want to fall for anyone, so I decided not to call her. Famous last words. My resolve lasted a few days. We went out again that Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday. Her friends were talking about us and grilling me as to whether I was serious. I wasn’t sure myself, but I really liked this girl. I was asking them the same questions — is she serious? — and they weren’t sure, either.
I’m capable of delaying a decision for days on end. Fortunately, Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, and it accelerated the decision. Was this a relationship that I should pursue? I wasn’t even sure if she wanted to pursue it. But a day before Valentine’s, I saw a pretty pendant at the mall on one of those tacky Valentine’s Day displays. And on a whim and a gut feeling, I dropped $100 — an unbelievably huge sum for this flat-broke undergrad student — on a necklace for a girl I had been dating (?) for three days.
It was a gold heart pendant, with a tiny ruby and diamond in the center, strung on a thin gold chain. I wondered what she would think when I gave it to her. Was I going too fast, and was she even in the market for a relationship? (She had talked about wanting to go on a mission). Surely she would think that I was nuts to give her a gold necklace now, only days after our first real dates, and in the middle of all sorts of ambiguity.
I told her I had a gift for her, and I handed her the box. My pulse raced as I wondered how she would react. She opened the box slowly, and looked at the necklace inside. Her eyes grew wide with surprise. And then her face softened, and her eyes glowed, and she looked up and smiled at me. And the necklace looked absolutely beautiful on her.
Five months after, we married.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Mardell!